There is confusion about the terms of service that dictate the use of contests on Facebook. You see articles all the time claiming that they can't be done, and yet we see them being conducted -- often by large businesses that have scores of lawyers that would be telling them not to if it was a threat to their social media page. Even small businesses without this luxury get away with contests all the time.
So what's the deal?
It all comes down to what you define as a contest -- or more specifically, what Facebook defines it as. There are certain types of contests that qualify as a lottery, which is not allowed both for the sake of liability to the website, and also due to the laws that vary from region to region.
How to Follow the Rules
The guidelines for running a contest on Facebook have actually gotten simpler over the years. They basically come down to this (Disclaimer: obviously these guidelines will change over time. Please perform your own research before you run a contest):
- You are required to post any contests through a third party app approved by Facebook.
- There can be no random selection process that counts as a 'drawing' for prizes, and so are left to chance.
- If a fan uploads content – such as a photo or video – directly to Facebook, it doesn't count as an entry. All content must be uploaded through your chosen app.
- All rules for the contest must be clearly stated on the submission page.
As long as you follow these guidelines, you should be fine. If you want a more thorough examination of the rules, you can check out their terms and conditions.
What to Work Out Before You Get Started
You don't want to jump into a contest without forethought. Not only because of the rules, but also because it takes some effort to properly launch a sweepstakes. Otherwise you could end up with a random attempt that goes nowhere. You may even make your fans angry.
The first step is to decide whether or not a contest is the right step for your ecommerce business. Are you doing it for the sake of gaining visibility on Facebook, or for building your social media presence as a whole? Do you want to engage users while giving away a "sample" that will get your product out there? Are you just looking to expand outside of your current user base?
Next, start looking around at contests run by other ecommerce businesses. How are they handling the promotion? Take note of the kind of prizes they are giving away, and the interest that is being shown from their applicants. By seeing what others are doing, you will be able to better decide on what it is you want to do with your own.
Finally, double-check the legal issues with your product, and a competition that will give it away. There are some items that are not legal in certain regions. Or maybe shipping to certain areas will just be too difficult. Knowing these things ahead of time will allow you to write proper guidelines for your contest.
Taking the First Steps to Setting Up a Contest
Creating the actual contest tab is going to be a breeze, since you are required to use a third party app. All of them have an automated system that will lead you step by step. They are made to be user friendly and self-explanatory. Most have similar appearance, which is somewhat customizable to your tastes and needs.
Writing a disclaimer might be trickier. You should take everything that you gathered in the pre-contest portion, and include it in your contest policy. It should let participants know the minimum and maximum age, locations where it is and isn't applicable, the amount of time the contest is running, how long it might be to gain the prize, and anything else that might be applicable. It needs to also contain a quick note on the participant's privacy and exactly what will be done with their personal data and any content they submit.
The rest is simple: advertise your contest on your ecommerce website and blog, get affiliates to announce it as well. Encourage users to share your page, and perform other basic social media tricks.
You can announce the winner on your page. The interest shown should tell you whether or not you should run another contest.